MONTPELIER- On a night when the Montpelier Locomotive football team from 1992, the last team to make the playoffs for Montpelier, was recognized at halftime the 2012 version looked like they were ready to be honored as well. Behind the running of quarterback Tyler Benner and running back Colin Mercer, and a solid defensive effort, the Locos scored early and built a 20 point lead in the third quarter en route to a 33-22 triumph over Swanton.
After winning the toss and electing to receive, Montpelier wasted little time putting points on the scoreboard. Starting at their own 30 yard line, behind the running of Benner and Mercer, the Locos covered the 70 yards to pay dirt in just 1:23 as the quarterback capped the drive with a 7 yard TD jaunt. After the Cody Caudill PAT sailed through the uprights, Montpelier was on top at 7-0.
It didn’t take long for the Locomotive offense to march back on the field. Swanton gained 21 yards on their first offensive play, but the Montpelier defense rose to the occasion shutting the Bulldogs down on the next three plays. Facing fourth and nine from the Loco 44 yard line, the Swanton punter shanked the kick and Montpelier had the ball back at their 33 yard line.
The second possession of the night took a little more time, but the outcome was the same as the first. Eating up almost five minutes off the clock the Locos advanced the ball 67 yards for another score. In the 11 play drive Benner called his own number 5 times for 39 yards and completed a pass to Levi Croft for another 6 yards. Mercer picked up 24 yards of his own in 3 carries, culminated by an 8 yard scamper through the heart of the Bulldog defense and into the end zone. Caudill’s extra point was good once again giving Montpelier a 14-0 lead with 3:57 left in the first quarter.
Both team’s defenses were up to the task at hand forcing punts from each other. However on their next possession the Bulldogs cut the deficit in half to 14-7. Right when it appeared Montpelier was going to allow Swanton to build momentum, they took it away by covering 64 yards in 10 plays in 2:42 as Benner crossed the goal line for the second time with a three yard burst. Caudill’s third extra point of the night put the Locos up 21-7 with just 52 seconds remaining in the half.
Swanton was unable to mount any drive in that short period of time and as halftime arrived Montpelier took a 14 point lead, and the impetus they needed, with them into the locker room.
The start of the second half resembled the first as the stingy Locomotive defense allowed the Bulldogs just four offensive plays before forcing a punt. Montpelier picked up where they left off covering 49 yards in just seven plays as Benner and Mercer once again took turns piling up the yardage. A 13 yard trek to the end zone by Benner, his third score of the night, gave the Locos a 20 point cushion. Caudill’s kick sailed wide right, but Montpelier had established a large lead with 6:36 remaining in the third quarter.
The trend for the Locomotive defense continued as once again Swanton was only able to hold the ball for five downs and punted the ball back to the blue and white as 5:16 remained in the period.
However, after two short gains by Mercer it appeared the apparent insurmountable lead the Locos had established suddenly might be fading away as Benner’s third down pass was underthrown and intercepted by the Bulldogs Clayton Ringle.
The pick seemed to energize the previously stagnant Swanton offense as they needed just 3:35 and eight plays to cover the 37 yards. The touchdown and successful extra point cut the margin to 27-14 with 5 second left in the quarter.
The fourth stanza began with Montpelier starting on their 33 yard line. A combination of runs by the duo of Benner and Mercer resulted in one first down, but the drive stalled at the Loco 44. Dan Hand’s punt brought the Bulldog offense back on the field with the ball at their 30 yard line.
Swanton decided to switch their offensive mindset as they went to the air to attempt to cut into the deficit. The plan paid dividends as they diced through the previously nearly impenetrable defense quickly moving the ball to the Montpelier 38. It looked like the Bulldogs were going to cut the lead to single digits when a first down pass was headed to a wide open Swanton receiver standing all alone in the end zone. However, when the ball dropped through his hands and to the ground the Locos dodged a huge bullet and the drive died at the Montpelier 41 yard line.
The resulting recovery from the Montpelier defense seemed to re-energize the offense as well. Single carries by Dallas Royer, Raymon Moreno, and Levi Croft, along with the workhorse Benner’s four totes culminated with the senior quarterback crossing the goal line from one yard out for his fourth score of the night putting the Locos up 33-14, with just 3:13 remaining in the game essentially ending any hopes of a comeback by the Bulldogs.
Swanton did take to the airways once again for a late score, but the Locos were able to line up in the victory formation for three successive downs to close out the 33-22 triumph.
Benner’s four scores and 197 yards on 27 carries paced the Locos. Mercer was not too shabby himself amassing 87 yards and 1 touchdown in 16 totes of the pigskin. Royer had 2 carries for 11 yards while Moreno had his number called 3 times for nine yards and Croft’s one tote gained five yards.
Benner connected on 3 of 10 throws for 20 yards and one interception. Keegan Hitzman, Croft and Moreno were recipients of the tosses gaining nine, six, and five yards respectively.
Nathan Buehrer led the way for the Montpelier defense registering nine tackles and two quarterback sacks. Mercer had a solid night on the defensive side as well collecting 8 tackles, 1 sack, and 4 tackles which resulted in a loss of yardage. Freshman defensive back Simon Wang also turned in a solid performance as he picked up 3.5 tackles and broke up several Bulldog passes before leaving the game late in the fourth quarter with an injury.
Coach Steven Brancheau had high praise for his team following the win. “Tyler is a smart kid and did a great job tonight, but none of that is possible without the offensive line. They did a nice job opening holes. Colin Mercer is now 100% after an early season quad injury and his has picked up where he left off last year. This is what we need out of him.” However, it wasn’t just the offense that the coach was passing out accolades to. “We did a nice job getting guys flying to the football. We didn’t wrap up as well as we should have, but overall the defense played well. We need to get better at tackling and will work on that this week.”
After the game the Locos paid tribute to their loyal fans by assembling in front of the stands and singing the school’s alma mater. With the win Montpelier improves to 2-2 overall for the first time since 2007, and 1-2 in the NWOAL, takin over the #11 spot in the OHSAA D-VI Region 22 rankings. The win gives the Locos a huge confidence boost, one they will surely need as next week they head to their arch-rivals, the Bryan Golden Bears. Thus far in the season the Golden Bears are featuring one of the most potent offenses in the area. Kickoff for this NWOAL matchup will be 7:00 pm.